The show, produced by the Tall Stories children’s theatre company, has toured the U.K. and internationally extensively but has never previously played the West End.
The musical is based on an award-winning picture book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, and tells of Mouse’s journey through the dark wood — he scares animals away by telling stories of the terrifying Gruffalo, but never expects to come face to face with his imaginary creation. The show is pitched at children aged three and older, and has played Broadway’s New Victory Theatre, the Scottish International Children’s Festival, Warsaw’s English Theatre and elsewhere. A DVD has been made of it by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Films.
The Gruffalo is produced and directed by, respectively, Tall Stories’ artistic directors Toby Mitchell and Olivia Jacobs. The designer is Isla Shaw, with lighting designs by James Whiteside, and Jon Fiber is the musical director. Music and lyrics are by Fiber, Robin Price, Jacobs and Andy Shaw.
The show may be well-travelled but, Jacobs told Playbill.com, the company is excited about its West End stint. “The Criterion is a perfect venue for this show. It’s a big theatre, but intimate enough to satisfy a four year-old wherever they’re sitting,” says Jacobs. “The story of The Gruffalo has become a children’s classic, the book has been a best-selling children’s picture-book for the last five years.” To help launch the show at the Criterion, the company is planning a special performance on July 23 to which celebrities and their children have been invited.
Such has been the success of the show that Tall Stories is planning to stage the sequel, The Gruffalo’s Child, in October 2005. It will start at the Polka Theatre in Wimbledon, but if it works, Jacobs will also look to bring that into town. Meanwhile, a London return for The Gruffalo is forecast for Christmas 2005. For more details, visit www.tallstories.org.uk or call (0)20 7413 1437.